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April 2023 Meeting Report

Stagecoach Routes from Cambridge, by David Bard

The speaker at the meeting of 13th April was David Bard who spoke on stagecoach routes from Cambridge.

The first recorded stagecoach services started in 1652 and 1653.By the beginning of the 19th Century there were 28 services to London a week, spread between a number of operators, and by 1839 this had risen to 73. There were also direct links to the West Midlands and a variety of destinations in East Anglia.

By 1839, the coaching business in Cambridge had come to be dominated by William Ekin, operating from the Hoop and the Mitchell brothers (William and Thomas) operating from the Red Lion and Eagle Inns respectively. Although initially rivals, towards the end of the coaching period, Ekin and the Mitchells were acting in collaboration. Both made early alliances with the developing railways, initially with the newly opened London & Birmingham Railway and later with the Northern and Eastern (later Eastern Counties) railway from Shoreditch. The latter opened to Broxbourne in 1841 and coaches would complete the last stage of their journey carried by train on flat wagons. After the railway opened fully to Cambridge and Norwich (1845) stagecoaches became redundant, but following a 30% rail fare increase in 1847, a stagecoach was briefly reintroduced. Services finally ceased after the opening of the Royston to Shelford rail link in 1852.

The drivers of stagecoaches were able to amass considerable incomes from tips and various sidelines and few were thrown into destitution after their occupation ceased.

Mary Dicken

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